Tag Archive: volunteers


 

wp_20161215_12_55_08_proSo it was the day of the garden volunteers party at Blickling this week. We spent the morning, though, raking and barrowing leaves from the Orangery Garden borders so that gardener Ed could ‘hoover’ them up into his giant leaf collector.

It was tiring work, moving between and under the shrubs and my aching hip didn’t do the distance without a short break…

Two and a half hours later, and after some interesting chats with fellow volunteers, we made our way to the new bothy in the Walled Garden, and what a spread awaited us!

Volunteer Pam setting out the food...

Volunteer Pam setting out the food…

After tucking in (the circulation space was a little cramped) we settled down to some conversation- it was good to meet up with some of the volunteers gardeners who come in other days as well as some of the garden guides too. Head Gardener Paul said a few words of thanks to all involved in the gardens this year and kindly gave us a card and bottle of wine.

And then  it was sing song time! Volunteers Chris (guitar) and Tressa (lead vocals) led us all in some carols to round off a very pleasing lunchtime.

'Sonny and Cher'?- Chris and Tressa lead the singing...

‘Sonny and Cher’?- Chris and Tressa lead the singing…

Needless to say no one was about to make their ways back into the gardens after that…still the Walled garden was looking suitably tidy in its winter garb. Here’s to another year of progress!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Image result for images narcissus jenny

Narcissus ‘Jenny’

Back to a Thursday morning at Blickling this week, having missed last week. I began at 9am and was soon joined by fellow volunteer Rory. Gardener Rebecca asked us to dig planting holes for a thousand narcissus bulbs in the orangery garden….

Most of the gardeners wer on leave this day, and i was sad to learn that Project Manager Mike had had a resumption of his back problem so was once more on sick leave…speedy recovery Mike!

It turned out that the bulbs- called ‘Jenny’- were to go around the large central tree, naturalised in the grass. They had been chosen to commemorate one of the Thursday gardening volunteers- yes, named Jenny- who had passed away a year or two ago. A nice idea.

The central tree has a circular seat surrounding it and work was underway to repair the base of this which had rotted away somewhat. Near the top of the surrounding grass mound the turf was pretty hard and choked with pieces of old brick, but further down there was more give and the job of cutting out holes with a bulb planter a bit easier. Unfortunately Rory had been given a rather old and ineffective planter which didn’t cut too well, so he was forever clearing it out with odd pieces of stick (and regretfully, my secateurs).

My planter was certainly effective and by the time the ladies had joined us- to plant the bulbs- we had managed to get around half way around the tree.

Well, three hours later and we had managed to dig and plant out around 800 bulbs, with about 100 not being in good condition, so rejected, and the others to be planted in the White Garden near the double borders. They should all make a wonderful display in the spring. As it worked out, just as I had to leave we had just about finished and the heavens opened… I’m not looking forward to stiff shoulders in the morning.

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20161124_12_48_27_proHaving spent the morning doing some Geophysics surveying at the nearby Aylsham Roman Project, I joined the Thursday Team at Blickling for a couple of hours this week.

The focus was digging over the Black Border and planting out over 600 ‘Queen of Night’ tulip bulbs which will look splendid alongside black Irises and black Mongo grass, as well as shrubs such as black Elder. The soil here is pretty damp and claggy, so we spent a good time forking it over to loosen it before planting out the bulbs.

wp_20161124_12_48_42_proOn my way to lunch I bumped into Project Manager, Mike, who has thankfully returned to work after his back problems. After lunch I was joined by Norfolk Peter and Gordon in the Walled Garden, where we planted out about seven rows of tulips which will be used for cutting flowers next spring. The soil, here, having been improved consistently over many years, was a joy to work compared to the Black border.

wp_20161124_14_43_36_proSo where were all the gardeners? It turns out they were ‘dressing’ the gardens for the festive openings in the run up to Christmas. The lighting effects and other decorations promise to be even better than previous years and the House has also been decked out as it would have looked for a 1930’s Christmas. If you can manage a visit, I’m sure it will be very worthwhile- I’ll post some pictures later in the week of how it all looks.

wp_20161124_15_01_21_pro

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20161116_11_36_20_proIt’s been a couple of weeks since my last visit to Blickling, and this week I went twice, though the first visit was to hear a talk by Assistant Head gardener, Steve Hagon about his 45 years of gardening here…quite a feat.

The talk was an amusing wander through some of Steve’s experiences . He began work as a 15 year old straight out of School and at that time- 1972 – the gardens had no powered machinery and no volunteers- quite a contrast to today’s set up!

wp_20161116_11_32_50_pro1My second visit was on Wednesday as other commitments meant I couldn’t get there for my usual Thursday stint. As before on Wednesdays there was a good turnout. I was sorry to hear the Walled Garden Project Manager, Mike, was still off work having injured his back. If you’re reading this Mike, all the best for a quick return to the gardens!

For the first hour I and two fellow volunteers and gardener Jane lifted the Cannas from the double borders and potted these up for transfer to their winter quarters in the orangery. Apparently these didn’t flower very well this year- quite  contrast to my own in Old School Garden, which put on their best show to date. Due to the poor (or no) flowering there was a little doubt about the colours of the flowers, so Jane tentatively put general labels in the pots indicating whether from their positioning  they were thought to be ‘warm’ or ‘hot’- it will be interesting to see what transpires next year, assuming we have better flowering!

After this we joined the bulk of the other volunteers in the Walled Garden where the glorious display of dahlias was sadly no more and the time had come to cut the top growth down and mulch the bed thickly for winter protection. As I’ve mentioned before, Mike has decided to leave the tubers in the ground and use a thick mulch to protect them over winter. I’ll be interested to see how they get on, but given their sheltered position and the thick mulch they should be OK.

We quickly finished off the cutting down- some of the stems were very thick and hollow and many were full of water. Then, while the ladies went over the borders of Thyme and other plants in need of a prune,  a few of us turned our attention to barrowing some more of that lovely home-made compost to the border, accompanied by gardener Ed and his amazing tractor skills! Ed managed to not only fill a 3 ton trailer for us which reduced the distance we had to barrow, but subsequently deposited a few tractor shovel loads  along the edge of the border.

He was also very efficient in doing a ‘formation fill’ of three or four wheelbarrows at once- see the picture below!.

wp_20161116_12_10_03_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20161023_15_51_29_proIt was Wednesday again this week at Blickling. ‘Lucky you turned up’ said a fellow volunteer, you’re the 14th person here today!

This must have been the largest volunteer group I’d participated in since joining Blickling. And as the day progressed it made the Walled Garden (where we were all working) reminiscent of a Victorian Kitchen Garden; where once droves of gardeners were busily doing things most days of the year.

The team at work...

The team at work…

It started off as a rather misty murky, autumnal morning, but we were soon set to work and warmed up. Project manager Mike is off with a bad back at present so we were ably directed by gardeners Jane and Rebecca. If you’re reading this Mike, I wish you a speedy recovery; I can sympathise as I had acute sciatica for a year many moons ago.

A few volunteers were set to washing pumpkins ready for an event the following day. I gather this will include drawing faces on the pumpkins, as ‘Health and Safety’ concerns now prevent the Trust helping youngsters and others carve out faces in traditional style (I was tempted to mutter under my breath ‘even worse than banning conkers at school’!!).

The majority of us were in ‘formation hoeing’ mode to begin with as we cleared the remaining weeds and spent foliage from the pumpkin patches and then barrowed in a considerable amount of locally produced compost as a winter mulch. As we progressed from one area to another the results looked very neat and tidy, as I think the dark, damp compost provides a satisfying finish to a bare bed. I lost count of the number of barrow loads I shifted, but my arms, by lunchtime, were at least two inches longer…

After lunch we continued with the same process, pausing to chat to the many visitors on this half term weekday, which was as pleasant as ever. Many commented favourably on the gardens, and especially the Dahlia border, which continues to look marvellous in the low autumn sunshine..it just shows how mild it’s been recently. The final bit of hoeing drew most of the male volunteers together for one final push… ‘five men went to hoe’.The quality of the banter went up a notch as we hoed alongside each other (it looked a little like a ‘hoeing derby’ at one point as we raced each other across the plot).

wp_20161026_14_35_07_proBy the end of the afternoon the sun was shining brightly and the garden looked wonderful bathed in this light, which created a glowing sea of backlit foliage, especially the lime green lettuces. In fact the whole place shone.

wp_20161026_15_27_36_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20161020_09_34_22_proI could only manage a couple of hours at Blickling this week. But it proved to be a rewarding time…

Arriving earlier than  the other volunteers (for once), I saw Assistant Head Gardener, Steve and set about digging over the remainder of the border where the Penstemons had been lifted a day or two earlier. This border, overlooking the Parterre and with the classic Blickling view towards the lake, has a splendid position, and it was still and peaceful as I made my way along the border, pausing occasionally to soak up the surroundings and watching a friendly Robin on the prowl for grubs.

Dug over, ready for Hyacinths

Dug over, ready for Hyacinths

This border is now being readied for the annual planting of masses of blue Hyacinths which make a glorious show in spring time. Soon I was joined by fellow volunteer Rory, a relative newcomer, who I had yet to properly meet. It proved to be an interesting chat as he turns out to be a local artist and art teacher (he shared some lovely pictures of his work on his phone)..and then I twigged…..asking his surname it all became clear- we have a couple of his lovely watercolours on our walls at home! These must have been bought 25 years ago! As we dug and chatted on a rainbow briefly appeared over the house and just added to the calm beauty of the place…

wp_20161020_09_33_57_pro

Rory digging from the other end...

Rory digging from the other end…

About an hour later we had finished and were asked to work with the ‘two Peters’ on clearing up some rubble and subsoil dug out and piled alongside the refurbished pump house near the lake- all part of the works for the Lake-source heat system being installed here.

Clearing the rubble...

Clearing the rubble…

It was a brief, if heavy-going, task as it involved piling rubble (mainly broken brick) into a barrow and shifting this uphill to the open trailer…I was glad to leave the boys to it after about 40 minutes…not sure what else they got up to!

And another shot of that rainbow...

And another shot of that rainbow…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20161013_15_48_01_proThis week it was a concerted effort to cut back and tidy up the hedge that runs along the ‘ha ha’ on the northern boundary of the gardens at Blickling.

The hedges that run along the ha ha, backed by a wire fence for security, are a bit of a bone of contention. Some are pretty consistent (like the one that was cut back this week- it’s mainly Beech), but others are a real mixture of different hedge plants and hedge plants that want to grow into trees (especially Sycamore). And in some places the hedge has grown out to reduce the space between it and the fence which makes it almost impossible to get in alongside with a strimmer to keep the undergrowth down.

If I had my way I think it would be worth spending time to grub them out completely, as they perform no useful security role, but take  a lot of maintenance if they are to be kept in a reasonably tidy state. Of course they are of value to nature (as nesting sites and food sources for birds) and I must say gardeners Ed and Rob did make a nice job of cutting back the northern hedge so that it should, hopefully sprout forth with new life next spring.

wp_20161013_11_55_59_pro

After cut..looking a bit of a mess….?

Anyway, our session involved finishing off cutting back the hedge and its immediate surrounds and then ‘feeding the wolf’ that is the industrial scale shredder. By the end of the morning, having brought up all the brashings from the hedge to the path above the ha ha the shredder had finished its first pass.

After lunch we tidied up the last few cuttings and then moved on to finish off the hedge at its steepest descent from the path. An earlier attempt at cutting this area had been halted as a wasp’s nest had been discovered. Despite the wasps still being active, gardener Rob proceeded to cut the remaining hedge back…only to disturb the wasps and get attacked for his efforts! A few stings later (one on the head seemed to be especially painful), Rob paused for thought…and we gingerly tidied up as much as we could, but staying well away from the wasps, until the nest can be properly dealt with.

All told it had taken Gardeners Ed, Rob, Rebecca and Jane plus half a dozen volunteers virtually all day to complete the job. But it does look tidy, if bare- the hedge has been drastically reduced in height and girth, and hopefully is back to a manageable size. Now will the next stage be to tackle the east and southern boundaries, or would that be a hedge too far….?!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20160929_13_42_00_proBack to Thursday at Blickling this week. An interesting, if not particularly tiring day helping to erect the new fruit cage that I thought might have been up already!

I’m not sure about why there had been a delay, but no matter, it was an enjoyable day working mainly with Project Manager Mike, Gardeners Ed and Rebecca, Norfolk Peter and a couple of guys sent over by the supplier to help.

Reminiscent of the task we had putting in the oak posts to support the raspberries, this involved lining up the posts, sinking receivers into the ground for the powder coated posts and then fixing the cross rails, making sure all were vertical and level as we went. We finished off with some corner braces to fix the outer posts rigid. The cage had been specially made to fit the irregular shape of the fruit bed, so I spent some time sorting out the different lengths of cross rail and placing them ready to be fitted.

Underway...

Underway…

After lunch I took a different route back to the Walled Garden; the sun was out and people were enjoying a late summer day by the lake…

Back to cage fighting! After a few moments of cursing at posts that wouldn’t stand straight or rails that weren’t level, with the aid of a sizeable rubber mallet and spirit level, we were able to ensure the structure looked neat and tidy. There was also a good standard of ‘garden banter’ on offer!

..near the end..of our tethers?!

..near the end..of our tethers?!

By the time I had to leave the bulk of the cage was up, leaving just one side to be put in. I think Mike is going to put the side netting on, but in case of heavy snow this winter, is leaving the roof off until the spring. I also had a spare ten minutes so I weeded the large piles of compost waiting to be put on the ground as mulch.

I also had the chance to speak with Mike about one or two matters I raised in last week’s post. First, I was right about the new compost bins- they are designed as ‘hot bins’ so don’t need any extra aeration. Mike tells me the temperature in the middle is already up in the 70’s fahrenheit! Second, he does plan to put in some green manure on the pumpkin beds, but it looks like its getting a bit late to sow any but a variety of grazing rye, so we shall see. I noticed that the beds had already been dug over following my clear up last week.

Ready for rye...

Ready for rye…

Today was the beginning of ‘sign up’ for the series of winter talks put on for volunteers here- a great idea. I’ve signed up to hear Mike talk further about the Walled Garden and also Assistant Head Gardener Steve, who is sharing his many year’s memories of working at Blickling….that should be ‘interesting’…

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

wp_20160921_12_28_07_proI went in to Blickling on Wednesday this week and worked with Peter and Maurice clearing away the piles of pumpkin and squash greenery left behind after the previous day’s volunteers had harvested a fantastic array of squashes and pumpkins.

Some of the squash beds awaiting harvesting and clearing

Some of the squash beds awaiting harvesting and clearing

I was excited to see another wooden structure in the far corner of the Walled Garden- three new compost bins with removable, slatted fronts and panelled lids. These will be a great addition to the garden and reduce the need to transport piles of compost from the main dumping ground on the other side of the gardens.

The new compost bins

The new compost bins

I was initially puzzled to see no gaps in the sides fo these new bins as I thought they would be necessary to allow some air to get into the bins. However, on reflection, I think the theory might be that the amount of material, and with regular turning, these bins will be ‘hot’ bins creating usable compost within a matter of a few months. Mike, the Project Manager wasn’t around to clarify this, so that’ll be a question for next week’s session. As we were finishing off the clearing up, a couple of young children and their parents wheeled a couple of mini barrowfuls of material over to help us!

wp_20160921_11_23_58_proIn the remaining hour before lunch we hoed and stone picked around the soft fruit bushes, where, Assistant Head Gardener, Steve, told us that new fruit cages were to be erected the following day. I look forward to seeing these in place next week.

After lunch Maurice and I hoed across the pumpkin and squash beds to tidy them up. I think Mike plans to sow some green manures in these over winter. I hope so, as I’d be interested to see how this would look and what it would do to protect and add to the nutrients in the soil.

The Dahlias are continuing to put on a good show, and I noticed that the cyclamen were in full bloom just outside the Walled Garden.

We had plenty of visitors in the Walled Garden, and many stopped to chat and ask questions, as well as praising everyone’s efforts. One chap asked me what the difference is between a gourd and a squash…hmm after a quick thought I offered the view that they are different types of the same sort of plant, the gourd possibly being more of a climbing variety…As it turns out I wasn’t quite right, as this very helpful advice from the site Missouri Botanical Garden explains:

‘Pumpkins, squash and gourds are members of the enormously diverse Cucurbitaceae family, which contains more than 100 genera and over 700 species.  They have been providing mankind with food and utilitarian objects since before recorded history.  Various members of the genus Cucurbita are known as squash or gourds.

Names differ throughout the world, but in the United States, any round, orange squash used for pies or jack-o-lanterns is likely to be called a pumpkin.  But the term “pumpkin” really has no botanical meaning, as they are actually all squash.  Squash are divided into two categories: tender or summer squash, and hard-skinned or winter squash.  Examples of summer squash include zucchini, pattypan, straightneck, crookneck and other types.  Winter squash include small to medium hard-skinned squash such as the acorn, small hubbard, miniature pumpkin and spaghetti types, as well as the large hard-skinned types, including banana, butternuts, cheese pumpkins, cushaws, and large hubbards, among others.

Botanists use distinctive characteristics of leaves, seeds and fruit stalks to classify the different species.  The origins of these species are lost in time, but all are assumed to have originated in the Western Hemisphere, principally South and Central America and Mexico.  Variety selection for the many distinct shapes, sizes and colors has occurred in all cultures worldwide….

Gourds are defined as hard-shelled durable fruit grown principally for ornament, utensils and general interest….

Hardshell gourds remain green throughout the growing season, but dry to a brownish-tan when fully cured.  They have traditionally been utilized as bottles and containers for liquid and dry materials, as well as food, medicine, musical instruments, artistic media and many other uses.

Like the squash, cultivar selections in various shapes and sizes have continued from prehistoric times to the modern era.’

wp_20160921_12_28_39_proFurther Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Looking towards the Temple at te start of a very hot day...

Looking towards the Temple at te start of a very hot day…

Only a couple of hours this week at Blickling. In some ways that was a relief as it turned out to be the hottest September day for many years (on my way to a meeting in Diss, the reading on my car’s thermometer was 31.5 degrees C!)

I arrived around 9am and signed in as usual; but no gardeners were to be found. The whole place had a peacefulness that only hinted at the boiling heat that was to follow; the lines of the main Temple Walk were gradually emerging from an early morning mist, soon to be burned off.

The diary we garden volunteers use to sign in and get our instructions said we were to be split between the Parterre (removing Bindweed with assistant Head gardener Steve) and something unspecified in the Walled Garden. As I couldn’t see anyone around the parterre I wandered over to the Walled Garden- still not a soul in sight. Hmmm… where could they all be?

I made my way in the direction of the Orangery, and Head Gardener Paul turned the corner and greeted me in his usual jolly way. He modestly told me about his own small garden and some of the wide range of plants he’s been growing , including some tropicals. We both moved on- he to his office, me to join the (small as it turned out) gardening team in the Orangery.

There Steve, Rebecca and Ed were busy hosing down, weeding and generally tweaking the inside of this lovely building, in readiness for a wedding reception to be held there the day after. I joined in and helped sweep off the pammented floor, raking gravel and, having spotted several of the potted citrus trees with black sooty mould on the leaves, went round and rubbed as much off as I could.

Ed hosing down the inside..

Ed hosing down the inside..

We finished off by shifting some of the many plants around; including rather tentatively carrying several large Agaves (with their extremely sharp and pointed leaves) into an adjoining room. By this time it was morning break (had I really done much?- I was certainly sweating). Anyway, after greeting fellow volunteers, we went off to various parts of the gardens; most it seemed to the rose garden to dig over and weed, in the comparatively cool shade of a starting- to- steam mid morning.

Samson, I think, casting a protective eye over proceedings...

Samson, I think, casting a protective eye over proceedings…

With only about an hour to spare I went over to the Walled Garden and hoed around the soft fruit bushes- once again this was a pleasant job with one of the twin-bladed Wolf hoes that Mike had recently purchased. But boy it was hot, and though the Dahlias were looking resplendent, it was not place to be for long, so I was glad to be on my way just before midday.

Dahlia 'David Howard' putting on a show with it's partners in the Walled Garden

Dahlia ‘David Howard’ putting on a show with it’s partners in the Walled Garden

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

Daniel Greenwood

The language of leaves

Alphabet Ravine

Lydia Rae Bush Poetry

TIME GENTS

Australian Pub Project

Vanha Talo Suomi

a harrowing journey of home improvement

How I Killed Betty!

The Diary and blog on How to Tackle Depression and Anxiety!

Bits & Tidbits

RANDOM BITS & MORE TIDBITS

Rambling in the Garden

.....and nurturing my soul

The Interpretation Game

Cultural Heritage and the Digital Economy

pbmGarden

Sense of place, purpose, rejuvenation and joy

SISSINGHURST GARDEN

Notes from the Gardeners...

Deep Green Permaculture

Connecting People to Nature, Empowering People to Live Sustainably

BloominBootiful

A girl and her garden :)

gwenniesworld

ABOUT MY GARDEN, MY TRAVELS AND ART

Salt of Portugal

all that is glorious about Portugal

The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl

Cooking, gardening, fishing, living, laughing.

aristonorganic

"The Best of the Best"

PetalPushin

Thoughts from a professional Petal Pusher

%d bloggers like this: